My Journey into Medicine and Pediatric Cardiology - Blog

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My Journey into Medicine and Pediatric Cardiology

June 4, 2024 | Contributed by Dr. Shreepal Jain

From a young age, I developed an interest in computers when we were introduced to them in school. Learning programming captivated me. It involved logical problem-solving algorithms with definite results. However, due to a lack of proper career guidance, I blindly followed the path my friends were taking, which led me to pursue a career in medicine. The journey to where I stand today, specializing in pediatric cardiology, has been long and often challenging, but each step has been filled with purpose and profound moments that have solidified my commitment to this field.

Dr Shreepal Jain

Entering the MBBS program was a daunting experience. Unlike the logical, problem-solving world of computers, medicine required rote memorization, patient interaction, and a deep understanding of human biology. My first year in medical school was particularly challenging. The late-night study sessions, endless lectures, and practical exams left little time for my tech hobbies. I felt like an outsider in a world that was supposed to become my new home.

Just as I was beginning to find my footing, life threw a curveball. On our way home after finishing Physiology Part 1 exam in second term, me and my friends were involved in a severe road accident. The details of that day are etched in my memory—the screeching tires, the sudden impact, and the blinding pain. I suffered a hip fracture and a concussion, leaving me bedridden for a couple of months. The physical pain was immense, but the psychological toll was even greater. I had to skip my first-year exams, a setback that felt like a monumental failure.

However, this period of forced rest allowed me to reflect deeply on my choices and my future. I realized that if I could overcome this hurdle, I could handle the challenges of medical school and beyond. This period of introspection ignited a renewed sense of determination within me. My parents supported me unwaveringly, and my peers helped me with notes and explanations of missed lectures. Slowly but surely, I regained my strength and confidence.

With renewed vigour, I immersed myself in my studies, determined to prove to myself that I could overcome this setback. The day I sat for my first-year exams was a mix of anxiety and excitement. When the results were announced, the sense of accomplishment I felt was indescribable. This only strengthened my resolve to continue pursuing a career in medicine.

Dr Jain with a family

Second and third year of medicine involved exposure to patients and getting more practical experience. We were posted in various specialties to get an exposure to each one of them. Each specialty offered unique insights, but pediatrics resonated with me on a deeper level. The innocence and resilience of children, coupled with the profound impact of early medical intervention, were aspects that I found incredibly compelling.

Securing a residency in pediatrics was a pivotal moment in my medical career. The residency years were demanding, filled with long hours, sleepless nights, and a steep learning curve. However, they were also incredibly rewarding, offering numerous opportunities to hone my clinical skills, deepen my medical knowledge, and develop a bedside manner that was both empathetic and effective. There was one particular incidence that attracted me towards Pediatric Cardiology.

Due to lack of Pediatric echocardiography services at our hospital, we had to take the children to private centres for diagnosis and consultation regarding further management for conditions like a hole in heart treatment. We had a newborn baby delivered at our hospital who immediately developed cyanosis and we were struggling to manage the case. I was designated the task of shifting the baby outside in an ambulance for an echocardiography. The entire process of readying the baby, arranging the ambulance and counselling the family took about 4 hours. However, upon reaching the centre, the cardiologist who performed the echo gave a diagnosis of a complex congenital heart defect in under 10 minutes. I was very impressed at how echocardiography could easily solve the problem we had been struggling with managing. That was the day I had found my calling and my decision to pursue Pediatric Cardiology was cemented.

After passing my MD in Paediatrics, I decided to join the only Pediatric Cardiology unit existing in the city of Mumbai in 2008 as a senior registrar. I was inspired by the pediatric cardiologist Dr. Snehal Kulkarni, who displayed not only exceptional medical expertise but also immense compassion and dedication. Her ability to navigate the intricate dynamics of a child’s heart while maintaining a nurturing approach to patient care was something I aspired to emulate. After a year of working and learning in the unit, I gave the entrance exam for Fellowship in Pediatric Cardiology provided by National Board and secured a seat in one of the prestigious centre in India, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), Kochi.

The fellowship was an intense, specialized training period that allowed me to dive deep into the intricacies of pediatric heart diseases. Under the guidance of mentors like Dr. Krishna Kumar and Dr. Balu Vaidyanathan at AIMS, I learned advanced diagnostic techniques, participated in complex Cath lab and surgical procedures, and was involved in lot of research projects. The fellowship not only expanded my technical skills but also enriched my understanding of the psychosocial aspects of dealing with young patients and their families.

Throughout these training days, the one thing that was common everywhere was the lack of financial support that the patients would get from government. Although the treatment for CHD involves a big cost, every unit would try its best to reduce the cost so that the patients from low socio-economic strata could benefit. There have been limited options for a Free heart surgery for poor in India and there are many who could not afford even these minimum expenses. With the intervention of senior members from our fraternity under the umbrella of Pediatric Cardiac Society of India (PCSI), various state governments started rolling out schemes for subsidising treatment of children with CHDs, such as a hole in heart treatment and other interventions. Also, help started pouring in from philanthropic organisations like the Genesis Foundation. Today with their help many more children are being treated at free or minimal cost at many centres across India.

In conclusion, my journey into the field of medicine and specifically pediatric cardiology has been a tapestry of inspiration, hard work, and profound moments of human connection. The privilege of impacting young lives and the continuous pursuit of knowledge and excellence keep me motivated and dedicated to this extraordinary field.

Dr. Shreepal Jain
onsultant Pediatric and Fetal Cardiologist
Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai

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